All in Italy


As an ultra-modern restaurant located in Northern Italy's seventeenth century Castello di Rivoli, Combal Zero at first appears as a place of contradiction. This is because Scabin is often misunderstood. The words spoken of his cuisine bounce between traditional and modern, trite and inventive. Some go so far as to say he is a mad scientist concerned with superficial appearances and technology while lacking attention on flavor. After my meal, I strongly disagree. Scabin, it appears, likes to have fun. And he thinks his diners should, too. Located in a suburb of Torino, Combal is not the easiest restaurant to get to. As I exited the subway and ventured towards the restaurant, I battled for thirty minutes against an intense downpour up steep and winding hills until finally, the large glass walls overlooking the modern art museum greeted me like a light at the end of a tunnel. I arrived soaking wet, but the warm and friendly staff masked the squeak of my shoes with laughter and grace.

Il Canto

There is an Italian proverb -- chi non risica non rosica -- meaning he who doesn't take risks won't nibble anything. And I welcome taking risks in the kitchen when it leads to exciting and innovative dishes, so long as flavor remains paramount. But when taking risks for its own sake is the priority, the experience suffers. Chef Paolo Lopriore is such a risk taker. He intentionally uses flavors that other chefs shy away from, and with reason: to about 99.9% of the human population, they don't taste good. But taste is in the mind of the beholder, I had to keep telling myself throughout this roller coaster dinner at his restaurant, Il Canto. Il Canto is located in the Certosa di Maggiano hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property in Siena. The hotel is beautiful, both intimate and rustic. It's non-descript entrance gives way to a medieval courtyard whose focal point is a well dating back to the 13th century. Bordering this open space, on the first floor, are salons for the hotel's thirteen guest rooms and outdoor seating for taking an evening apéritif. The second floor is where the hotel rooms are located, each with a view overlooking the courtyard. When we arrived, we were the only people around so our footsteps clicked on the cobblestone and resounded through the cloisters. If it were just a little warmer, we would have stayed outside in this calming atmosphere for a bit, a silent and surreal pause before dinner.